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Published: February 21, 2024

Equity, Inclusion and Diversity written on wooden blocks

Since November 2022, when Kendal’s Racial Equity Forum was launched “to examine racism in America to forge a more equitable future,” the resident and staff initiative has had a busy calendar. But before we highlight the forum’s many activities over the past year and half, let’s first take a look at why it began.“Yes, the murder of George Floyd (in May 2020) was one of the impetus, but so was Kendal’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan,” says Arlene Dunn, who was the driving force in founding the forum.

One of the seven goals in the nonprofit’s current strategic plan is to “assure Kendal at Oberlin is a community that demonstrates commitments to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in its actions and in its communications.”

The forum was also formed to actively participate in pursuing the goals of the Lorain County Racial Equity Agenda, a program of the Lorain County Racial Equity Center of the YWCA of Elyria. Kendal at Oberlin became a collaborating partner with the Lorain County Racial Equity Center when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2023.

And finally, as Kendal Community Outreach Director Kim Preston explains, “we want to hear diverse perspectives and learn and grow.”

The forum series is “diverse”

Lectures, presentations and workshops presented at Kendal by area historians, community leaders and college professors have focused on a wide-range of topics, including:

  • Housing segregation in Oberlin;
  • Racial disparities in health care;
  • Reparations for African Americans impacted by slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation;
  • History and culture of Samba, a dance of Afro-Brazilian origin (picture from the event below).
    group of people with a woman dressed to lead a Samba

“We’ve had a good response from the community and always an active Q & A,” Arlene says.

Next up on the calendar is Matt Kusznir and Drake Hopewell, co-chairs of the Lorain County Racial Equity Agenda Housing Committee, who will discuss the work they are doing to address racial and income disparity in housing accessibility. The event is Thursday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

In March, Maggie Nash, professor emerita of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, will present Land Grant Colleges and the Dispossession of Native Americans.

And like most of the forum events, the following day interested residents and staff will gather at lunch in the Den to “continue the conversation.” Sometimes the speakers come back to join in the conversation.

“These issues spur lots of ideas and this is a time we can talk and share and reflect,” Kim says.

Connecting with the city

One recent outgrowth of the forum is a monthly meeting at Kendal with Terri Richardson-Sanders, who was hired last summer as Oberlin’s first Equity Coordinator.  

“Part of my commitment to building equity is community engagement and building collaborative relationships, with and between community organizations and stakeholders. Having monthly meetings at Kendal allows me to collaborate with and learn from members of the community who are well educated, and interested in participating in programs and initiatives that affect the lives of regular citizens,” Terri says.


“I appreciate Kendal residents, because they have a wealth of knowledge and I learn something new with every visit. Kendal residents want to be involved and thus need to be informed.  Overall, this kind of gathering allows me to educate residents and promote social equity initiatives and get important feedback.”

For instance, in conversations with Terri, Kim learned that Oberlin Community Services could use help delivering meals to local residents who live in the city’s two low-income senior housing apartments. So twice a month Kendal staff heads to the nonprofit agency, loads meals into the Kendal bus and drops them off at the two housing communities.

Kim hopes more city/Kendal collaborations will evolve as the forum continues to bring equity issues to the forefront.

“With Quaker roots in an Oberlin community, it is part of the DNA of Kendal at Oberlin to focus on social justice and to care about the wider community. We are excited to see the relationships that are growing from these Racial Equity Forums,” Kim says.


Learn More About Kendal at Oberlin – A Vibrant Community for Older Adults

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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.